National Preventive Mechanism

The Scottish Police Authority’s Independent Custody Visiting Scotland (ICVS) is a member of the National Preventive Mechanism, a group of organisations designated under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture to monitor places of detention and report on the treatment of and conditions for detainees.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) is an international human rights law which seeks to strengthen protection for those who are deprived of their liberty. It recognises that such people are particularly vulnerable to ill-treatment and aims to prevent ill-treatment through establishing a system of regular visits or inspections to all places of detention. OPCAT requires that States designate a ‘National Preventive Mechanism’ (NPM) to carry out visits to places of detention, to monitor treatment of and conditions for detainees, and to make recommendations for the prevention of ill-treatment.

The UK ratified OPCAT in 2003 and our NPM is made up of 21 bodies who monitor places of detention across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes police custody, prisons, court custody, immigration and military detention, secure children’s homes, and places where people are detained under mental health legislation. The NPM members have the power to enter places of detention and speak to detainees and staff in private. 

To effectively carry out their role, OPCAT requires that NPMs be independent and that conflicts of interest among staff members are avoided and this is the reason why we have volunteers who carry out the custody visits.

The NPM publish an Annual Report detailing their activities: Monitoring Places of Detention.